Nehru established institutions of higher learning including IITs, AIIMS and IIMs.(Illustration: Biswajit Debnath)
Nehru established institutions of higher learning including IITs, AIIMS and IIMs.(Illustration: Biswajit Debnath)

Jawaharlal Nehru: Freedom struggle icon, maker of modern India

This visionary leader was one of the central figures of politics in 20th century India. India’s first and longest serving Prime Minister, he was conferred the Bharat Ratna in 1955.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 02, 2020 06:43 PM IST

Born to Motilal Nehru and Swarup Rani on November 14, 1889 in Allahabad, Jawaharlal Nehru was the first of the three children of the couple. The other two were Vijaya Lakshmi and Krishna Hutheesing. Lakshmi later became the first female president of the United Nations General Assembly while Krishna became a noted writer. His father was a barrister who served twice as President of the Indian National Congress. Until the age of 16, Nehru was educated at home by English governesses and tutors. Later, he was enrolled at the Harrow School in England; Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in natural science and the Inns of Court School of Law in London.

Freedom movement

Nehru returned to India in 1912 and became an advocate but he didn’t enjoy practising law. In 1916, he joined Annie Besant’s Home Rule League. He met Mahatma Gandhi and entered the freedom struggle at the national level during the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920. He was arrested on the charges of anti-government activities in 1921 but was released a few months later. In 1923, he became the general secretary of the Congress party for two years and again held the post for two years since 1927. In 1929 Lahore session, Nehru sought complete independence for India. In 1930, he took part in the Salt Satyagraha and was imprisoned. Nehru moved into the highest echelons of the Congress and drew closer to Gandhi. He was arrested and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. In 1940, he participated in a limited civil disobedience campaign launched by Gandhi and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. Between 1921 and 1945, he spent over nine years in jail. Gandhi designated Nehru his political heir in 1942. Four year later. after the elections to the provincial assemblies, he became the Prime Minister of the interim government. On August 15, 1947, India attained independence but also suffered the pain of partition.

As Prime Minister

Nehru served as the Prime Minister for 18 years -- first in an interim capacity and then as the PM since 1950. In that capacity, he introduced radical changes in various fields. He established institutions of higher learning including IITs, AIIMS and IIMs. He even included free and compulsory primary education to all children in his five-year plan. He established and heavy industries. Nehru laid the stepping stone for the foundation of the National Defence Academy and the Atomic Energy Commission. He initiated the non-aligned movement. In 1954, Nehru signed with China the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, known in as the Panchsheel. He also held the external affairs portfolio and is credited as the architect of India’s foreign policy. In 1953, he appointed the States Reorganisation Commission for the creation of states on linguistic lines.

Personal life, legacy

In March 1916, Nehru married Kamala Kaul. Their only child, Indira Priyadarshini (later Gandhi), was born in 1917. Later, she became the nation’s first woman Prime Minister. Later, her son Rajiv Gandhi also became the PM. Nehru played a major role in making India a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. Nehru’s health began deteriorating in the early 1960s and he passed away on May 27, 1964. A number of institutions and memorials such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and Jawaharlal Nehru Port bear his name. His birth anniversary is celebrated as Children’s Day.

Source: britannica.com, wikipedia, thefamouspeople.com

INTERESTING FACTS

1. The seven years Nehru spent in England left him in a hazy half world. Some years later he wrote, “I have become a queer mixture of East and West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere.”

2. Nehru was also a very prolific writer in English and authored a number of books, including The Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History, and his autobiography Toward Freedom.

3. He wrote 30 letters to his daughter Indira Gandhi, when she was 10 years old. The collection of these letters was later published as a book titled Letters from a Father to His Daughter.

4. Nehru has been portrayed in films. Actor Roshan Seth played him in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi, Shyam Benegal’s 1988 TV series Bharat Ek Khoj (based on The Discovery of India), and more.

5. His death was announced to Parliament in words similar to Nehru’s own at the time of Gandhi’s assassination: “The light is out.” In 2012, Outlook magazine’s The Greatest India poll ranked Nehru fourth.

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